European response to migration has been fragmented. Germany’s Angela Merkel opened the borders to offer the hand of friendship to thousands of refugees fleeing war in the Middle East. The UK voted (37% of the electorate) to leave the EU in a referendum prompted by scare stories of unlimited emigration from Europe. The refugee camp in Calais known as ‘the Jungle’ was forcibly cleared by French police and Islamophobia was fuelled by recent terror attacks across Europe.
Economic migrants and refugees are dispersed around Europe. Turkey secured a deal with the EU to act as a holding station for refugees. The situation is a continuing tale of suffering for families whose homes have been destroyed and family members killed in the ongoing conflicts.
There are millions of European voters who oppose immigration on nationalist/racist grounds. Here is a link describing the far right parties in Europe.
Fear of the foreigner has been used for political advantage for centuries. Immigration has shaped our culture, contributed to our prosperity and enriched our society. Waves of invaders have redrawn borders across Europe since Roman times. Medieval Europe emerged from the dark ages thanks to the contribution made by the Islamic colonisation of Europe.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)
The right to cross borders is in the news. Refugees and economic migrants are detained at holding stations to determine where they will be allowed to go. Tourists fully expect to be able to jet around the world with visa applications a mere formality. We, who are relatively safe within our borders, must surely have an obligation to help those who are fleeing war zones.
Families in unseaworthy vessels with insufficient food and water became the frequent news stories of rescue or disaster. Eventually money and resources were found from EU nations to help relieve the suffering of millions.
Germany responded in the most humanitarian way to the refugee crisis by opening its borders. Others in Europe are still trying to dissuade refugees from entering their territory by erecting security walls and fences along their borders.
The current UK government favours giving money, rather than sanctuary to those in need. Reducing the number of immigrants to the UK is seen as a vote winner, whether they are refugees fleeing war zones or EU citizens attracted by higher wages and better job prospects.
A community of nations that allows its citizens to travel freely within its borders, whether for work or pleasure, sounds like a practical arrangement. The European Union originally embraced that philosophy. The refugee crisis and the expansion of the EU have put that ideal in jeopardy.
The UK is not flavour of the month in Europe. Our government were so out of step with the rest of the EU on the Syrian refugees crisis, it needed the UK public to remind them about the compassion and humanity we owe to our fellow human beings.
If ever we were in such dire straits, we would want our neighbours to come to our aid, not haggle about the terms and conditions of such help. Why there has not been a more concerted effort by EU member states to provide for the victims of war, and plan for their arrival on our shores is puzzling.
There is a huge difference between economic migration and those fleeing conflict zones. The fact that the UK has a history of formenting trouble in the Middle East, and then walking away, does little to promote our moral standing in world politics and diplomacy.
Luckily there are countries in Europe who recognise our duty to help refugees and have come to their aid. The time for short term relief is now, we can debate the bigger issues at our leisure.